Since I wrote my last post, I feel like a different person. I was in the midst of a mini breakdown, and until I fully self-destructed, I wasn’t able to identify the turmoil I was in and why I was acting so desperately.
The challenges over the past few weeks have been a blessing. I would never wish to repeat them, but I’ve learned so much about taking care of myself physically and mentally, I’m grateful for all the dark places I’ve been.
I was aware that landing back in Vancouver after a year and a half without a plan was irresponsible to my wellbeing. But I had no idea how cruel I could be or how much pressure I would put on myself until I beat my body into the ground and was forced to stop everything.
Thank goodness my hips revolted the way they did. It brought me to a grinding halt, and there was no way my mind could overpower what was happening. I could barely walk five blocks, so pulling out of the marathon was a given. I wouldn’t have even made it to the start line, which made the decision a little easier to swallow.
I learned a great deal about how we control the way situations affect us. The moment I pulled out of the race was a perfect example. I’d made such a song and dance about it in my head and sat with my mouse poised over the submit button of the form for at least five minutes before I caught myself over-dramatising. I was attributing so many emotions to this action, which had nothing to do with my desire to run a 42km race at all, and upon realising this, I pressed the button and immediately moved on.
I don’t think I ever really wanted to run the marathon, but I needed a focussed distraction and something to boast while determining the aspects of my life I didn’t have answers for. The marathon gave me a concrete response to the dreaded question of ‘what now?’ which I felt I needed because I was ashamed to have nothing I deemed as ‘impressive’ to report. I’ve spent so much of my life overachieving in my career and physical pursuits to quieten that frightened part of me that never feels good enough, I continually forget I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.
It’s taken a while to understand what slowing down means and to stop feeling guilty, worthless, or pathetic for doing so. At the beginning, I was terrified I was simply lazy, and if I allowed myself a week of respite, I’d get so used to doing nothing I’d never want to do anything productive again. These thoughts sound ludicrous when you write them down on paper, but they’re legitimate, and I beat myself up over them constantly.
Thankfully my mother helped me recognise I needed to restore my energy, repair my body, and reduce my anxiety before I could even begin planning for my future. I received so much great advice over the past few weeks through comment and emails, but it wasn’t until I called my mum in a fit of tears that I recognised something had gone wrong and I started to actually listen. She told me there was no way I could make any big decisions in the state I was in, and that my first priority was to find somewhere to live that made me happy and slowly build from there.
All the comments and advice I received gave me the permission I needed to rest. I’ve spent the last few weeks walking slower, noticing details of my environment and people I’ve never paid attention to before. I’ve taken the time to speak to strangers on the bus, in the supermarket, and along the street. I stop at every crosswalk before the light turns red, so I don’t have to race across the road in an unnecessary hurry. I take naps, I journal, I eat good food, I go to bed early, take baths, and admit that I need help.
In the process, I’ve started breaking down the overtly strong, powerful, independent persona I’ve created for myself over the years. No matter what I’ve achieved I’ve always felt there was something fundamental missing, and I think part of the answer is that I’ve disconnected so far from my needs and desires, I’ve been searching for something that was inside me all along.
The kinder I am to myself, the greater my capacity is to be kind to others. I can share and celebrate achievements, support my friends when they seek advice, and be present in conversations with the people I care about. I haven’t fully mastered any of this just yet, but I’ve caught a glimpse of how joyful a life without self-torture can be, and if all I need to do is be a little kinder to myself, I’m excited to explore this new path of self-discovery.